Millennials and Their Managers: 4 Ways to Keep Communication a Two-Way Street
What are the things that need to be done by the manager of an organization to work well with Millennials? The culture of an organization is important, but it goes beyond a “corporate culture”. It’s not just a matter of Deloitte gets it and IBM doesn’t, or vice versa.
Rather than being a corporation to corporation issue, it is more of a person to person issue. It comes down to a caring issue. It’s understanding that Millennials were raised with adults who cared about them a lot. Their parents gave them attention and connected with them. Their tutors paid attention and listened to them. Their soccer coaches gave them constant feedback and had their best interests in mind. Their teachers and extended supervisors gave them personalized direction. So it’s really not a behavioral aberration that they would expect their managers and leaders to be kind to them and—yes—pay attention.
A response to this by one individual was,
“Knock off the kowtowing. The needs and expectations of these unproven workers are unrealistic. They should be held accountable for their performance. That’s called being a professional and an adult!”
Yes, they should be held accountable. Yes, in many respects they are unproven. However, are their expectations unrealistic?
It’s one thing to say that Millennials are the ones that need to get with the program. Yet Millennial parents will tell you that they didn’t raise their kids to “get with the program.” They were raised to create their own program, and their parents supported them each step on that programmatic journey. So when the same parents put on their managerial-leader cap, is it right to expect them to fall in line and leave all that “great” training behind?
It is our contention that managers and leaders can build a robust dialogue with their Millennial team. This avoids leaving talent on the table with traditional methods that no longer work. It involves overcoming the bias of experience, that the way I did it is the way it should still be done. Or organization bias, that our way of operating and promoting is without any need for improvement or change.
In Managing The Millennials, 2nd Edition we show that a great place to start is in the area of communication. If communication is important, then we need to communicate in the most effective way possible. Without this there is a disconnect. Communication is a two-way street. But the most mature must take that first step.
Communication should not be like a shootout to see who blinks first.
Here are 4 behaviors that make communication a two-way street.
- Know each other’s communication style.
What are the informational needs and preferences of a Millennial? What are their work styles? What’s influenced them throughout their lives? Understanding this will help the manager shape her communications more effectively to help everyone accomplish mutual objectives.
Do we mean that Millennials have no need to learn? Not at all. We’ve seen cases where Millennials haven’t adequately learned how to interact with others. This interaction must go beyond text messaging. So perhaps some guidance in the way of how to effectively communicate with others would be in order. In reality, we all had to learn how to communicate effectively when we first entered the workplace. Today there is simply an added dimension.
So be aware of both the content, the channel and the format of the communication. Sometimes short, sound-bite communications are better than long drawn out treatises. The key is to be efficient and effective so that we are more likely to be heard.
- Understand the need for feedback.
Telling it straight in an open and honest way will build trust. I say this with a caveat: keep it informal. This will heighten its effectiveness. This will keep Millennials engaged with the organization and its message.
They want constant feedback. And why should that be a problem instead of an opportunity? They want direction and feedback. In the meantime they would like you out of their way. Not to do this is micromanaging. They don’t need or want a series of orders and commands on every detail of every task. However, they do want constant feedback. And not simply general comments like, “Good job” or “Bad job”. Without specifics, motivation is hijacked.
When giving some “constructive” feedback there is a way to help avoid a defensive reaction. How about, “Here’s another way to approach this”, “Here’s a different way to do it”, or “Here’s what I did in that situation that worked.” This kind of feedback is a matter of ongoing coaching that helps someone else get better at what they do.
- Keep looking for ways to adapt.
Communication is a two-way street. Becoming obsolete is the manager that simply assigns a task and then later evaluates the employee. Today’s managers are coaches and mentors. They spend the time looking at someone’s skill set to see what they need to learn to become better at what they do. They figure out what that individual’s development needs are and then adapt and make the investment.
- Assess the temperature of the conversation.
If the conversation is a sensitive one, then go into it with the outcome in mind. What does the manager want to happen as a result of this conversation? If they have thought about their preferred outcome, then they can structure the discussion to best reach that optimal conclusion. Knowing the outcome up front will prevent a yellow flag for “unnecessary roughness.” Understanding the Millennials mindset will help to recalibrate the message and draw out the desired response.
For a more in-depth, practical discussion with case studies on this topic and many more, order your copy of Managing The Millennials, 2nd Edition today.
We guarantee this will go a long way in integrating this emerging generation into your workforce.